BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
PORT HARCOURT— OGONI area of Rivers State is the new theatre of war in battle for the soul of the state between Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s camp and those opposed to him. Weekend’s advertised rally by both camps was another reason for the latest round of violence that visited the state. Uncomfirmed reports said that two people lost their lives in the shootings that dazed the residents.
While the rally organised by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, at Degema in the state was peaceful, that of the Save Rivers Movement, SRM, was aborted by suspected thugs and ceaseless shootings from some unknown gunmen. Both camps seemed to be agreed that two people were shot during the aborted rally.
Governor Amaechi in his reaction blamed the Rivers State police commissioner of police for the mayhem and for supporting those opposed to him. The Governor vowed to attend next Saturday’s rally of the SRM. The scene of last weekened shooting was Bori, the headquarters of Khana Local Government. The SRM applied for police permit on January 7, 2014 and slated its rally for yesterday, at the All Saints Cathedral, Diocese of Ogoni, Anglican Communion on Hospital road in Bori, headquarters of the local government.
Some youths who spoke to Vanguard said the shootings started at the venue of the rally at about 2am following an invasion by some PDP youths.
According to one Bright Ibobor the residents heard the first round of shooting at from about 2am to 3am, while the second round started at about 5am. Another source who spoke on condition of anonymity also blamed the rival youths over the incident. According to him, the shooting intensified at about 8.30am when some youths sighted the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. George Feyii, and Chief of Staff to Government House, Chief Tony Okocha at the venue of the rally.
However, the two top government functionaries were said to have escaped through a route in Bori that led to the East West road. Deputy Speaker in the state House of Assembly, Leyii Kwanee who also spoke on the issue confirmed the shooting to newsmen, blaming the police for inaction.
Vanguard gathered that anti-riot policemen moved into the venue between 9 and 10am to maintain law and order. The police later took over the Hospital Road which stretches from Bridge area to School Land. Motorists plying the road were diverted to adjourning roads by the fierce looking policemen who disallowed pedestrians from walking through their barricades but advised them to take other routes to their destinations.
A youth leader in the area said the shooting at about 8am caused panic in the area as most people ran into the churches for refuge. He also said the incident forced the market on Monsi Street in Bori to shut down immediately by traders and buyers who scampered for safety. At the All Saints Cathedral, Diocese of Anglican Communion, venue of the aborted rally, canopies erected the previous day by SRM for the rally were pulled down allegedly by the rival groups. At about 3pm some youths were seen dismantling the canopies under heavy security watch.
Reacting to the incident, the Interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, in a statement entitled “another violent attack in Rivers: President Jonathan’s sympathizers pushing Nigeria to the precipice,” said the presidency was pushing Nigeria to the precipice. The APC also said that PDP-sponsored militants attacked a peaceful rally in Rivers State with guns and other weapons, yesterday.
Mohammed, said “the hoodlums, who invaded the venue of the rally by the SRM in Bori, where the executives of the pan Rivers group in Khana Local Government Area of the state were to be inaugurated, attacked those in attendance and beat up some of the journalists who were invited to cover the event, damaging their vehicles and equipment in the process.
Protection of lives and property
While the attack was going on, the police who had been formally informed of the rally and were expected to provide protection instead gave the hoodlums a free rein, in the most egregious and open display of partisanship by an institution of the state saddled with ensuring the protection of lives and property of all citizens.”
Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, who spoke yesterday said he was going to attend a rally in the area on Saturday. He accused the President of failing to call the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Joseph Mbu to order in the state. His words, “We heard Mbu called a meeting at the Police officers mess and declared war against the Rivers State Government and Rivers people. He is determined to ensure that they are not protected and warned them in advance not to protect anybody at the rally. The interpretation of that means that he knows that there is going to be an attack and he must have been part of the process of the attack.”
In a statement signed on behalf of the Special Assistant to the state PDP Chairman, Mr Jerry Needam, the party said, “the Rivers State chapter of the PDP, has raised alarm over increasing spate of violence in the state masterminded by the Rotimi Amaechi administration. SRM and the APC to continue to create a state of insecurity to justify their call for the removal of the Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu.
“The crisis which left two Ogoni youth shot and their conditions are very critical and unstable in a private clinic in Port Harcourt, according to reports, followed a local resistance of the APC, Rotimi Amaechi and the Save Rivers Movement by the Ogoni people today (yesterday) in Bori. One was shot on the leg and another shot in the stomach.
“The Rivers State chapter of the PDP is indeed miffed at this trend. We, therefore, call on the police to arrest the Chairman of Khana Local Government Area, Mr Bariledum Greg Nwiedam who on the instructions of Governor Rotimi Amaechi masterminded the crisis and shooting in Bori today. The PDP abhors violence and we shall continue to preach peace, unity and progress of Rivers State.”
Meantime, the rally of the Grassroots Development Initiative, GDI slated for Degema local government area in the state held smoothly.
The GDI is a pro-PDP group in the state. The Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who spoke at the rally said President Jonathan had the interest of Rivers people at heart; a situation he said informed his appointment of a Rivers man as Chief of Army Staff. Wike said that a man of his status was not supposed to do what he did. Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Henry Ogiri who also spoke called on the people of the state to support Jonathan.